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I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya…
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I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings (1969)

by Maya Angelou

Other authors: See the other authors section.

Series: Maya Angelou's Autobiographies (1)

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» See also 259 mentions

English (101)  Dutch (1)  All languages (102)
Showing 1-5 of 101 (next | show all)
I know I read this for school at some point as well...9th grade maybe?

*

Quotes

In Stamps the segregation was so complete that most Black children didn't really, absolutely know what whites looked like. Other than that they were different, to be dreaded, and in that dread was included the hostility of the powerless against the powerful, the poor against the rich, the worker against the worked for and the ragged against the well dressed. (20)

Turning off or tuning out people was my highly developed art. The custom of letting obedient children be seen but not heard was so agreeable to me that I went one step further: Obedient children should not see or hear if they chose not to do so. (church, 34)

But what mother and daughter understand each other, or even have the sympathy for each other's lack of understanding? (57)

It was the same old quandary. I had always lived it. There was an army of adults, whose motives and movements I couldn't understand and who made no effort to understand mine. (rape, 62)

Children's talent to endure stems from their ignorance of alternatives. (Saturdays, 94)

Like most self-pitying people, I had very little pity for my relatives' anxiety. (Bailey missing, 95)

It was awful to be Negro and have no control over my life. It was brutal to be young and already trained to sit quietly and listen to charges brought against my color with no chance of defense. (graduation, 153)

[Bailey] was away in a mystery, locked in the enigma that young Southern Black boys start to unravel, start to try to unravel, from seven years old to death. The humorless puzzle of inequality and hate. (drowned man, 168)

The quality of strength lined with tenderness is an unbeatable combination, as are intelligence and necessity when unblunted by formal education. (Daddy Clidell, 186)

The needs of a society determine its ethics... (crime, 190)

"We are the victims of the world's most comprehensive robbery. Life demands a balance. It's all right if we do a little robbing now." (191)

I believe most plain girls are virtuous because of the scarcity of the opportunity to be otherwise. (239)
  JennyArch | Jul 8, 2014 |
A wonderful read. I think, more useful if you were born as part of the majority than a minority. ( )
  siddartha | Jun 23, 2014 |
***This review assumes that you know the basic details of Maya Angelou’s life and may have spoilers if you don’t.***

I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings is Dr. Angelou’s account of her life from three or four years old through seventeen years old. It’s different from most autobiographies in that it’s not strictly chronologically. It’s more of a series of vignettes from her life that have common themes.

It starts off when her parents shipped her and brother off to Stamps, Arkansas to live with their grandmother, who they called Momma. And they were literally shipped – put on the train by themselves with a tag pinned to them with where they were going written on it. Living in Stamps, Maya experiences blatant racism from most all of the white people she encounters. This book presents outstanding, horrible examples of white privilege. If you know anyone who doesn’t understand the concept, recommend this book to them.

One particular incident that haunted me is when Maya is eight years old, she and her brother are sent to live with her mother, who her brother calls Mother Dear, for a time. While there, Maya is sexually assaulted and raped by her mother’s boyfriend. Her description of the emotions she experienced during these events is so brutally honest. I was impressed with the courage that must have taken. The rape and the subsequent murder of the perpetrator are what let to Maya’s muteness for the next five years.

Dr. Angelou is, of course, a fabulous writer. She crafts wonderful metaphors and descriptions. She also has wit. The story about her thinking she might be a lesbian (which she thinks is a hermaphrodite) is particularly humorous.

You’ve probably read this book already. I think it’s on every “books to read before you die” list that there is. If you haven’t read it, do so as soon as you can. ( )
  mcelhra | Jun 22, 2014 |
Very well written and an interesting story, bit slow for the first part but then a bit too quickly paced in the second half which skips over quite a lot of her life in California. ( )
  rlangston | Jun 18, 2014 |
With the death of Ms. Angelou, I knew it was time to take this book off my shelf and start reading. I had been in fear of reading it due to the subject matter of her childhood rape.

Ms. Angelou did a marvelous job with her autobiography using short chapters to denote a major memory in time. The book read so smoothly that I nearly believe it’s a fiction instead. She does not employ excess emotions to influence the reader; she simply states what she remembers and at times reflects on those memories. Her words are lyrical and thoughtful. “I have tried often to search behind the sophistication of years for the enchantment I so easily found in those gifts. The essence escapes but its aura remains.” And “The unsaid words pushed roughly against the thoughts that we had no craft to verbalize, and crowded the room to uneasiness.”

From age 3 through high school graduation, the reader is exposed to the ugly – self-loathing, abandonment, rape, and the good – the kindness and love from the many individuals in her life, her intelligence, and her travels. Like many little girls who didn’t grow up with fathers, the young Maya sought father-figure love and care – in all the wrong places. “I began to feel lonely for Mr. Freeman and the encasement of his big arms.” All little girls need to be loved and protected. Sadly, she was not and was abused instead. This incident and the need to be loved continued to negatively influence her.

A most influential adult of her youth is doubtlessly Mrs. Flowers who magnified her vision, expanded her horizon, and gave her individuality. Ms. Angelou credited Mrs. Flowers with “… has remained throughout my life the measure of what a human being can be.”

F: “’…Language is man’s way of communicating with his fellow man and it is language alone which separates him from the lower animals.’”
A: “That was totally a new idea to me, and I would need time to think about it.”
F: “’Your grandmother says you read a lot. Every chance you get. That’s good, but not good enough. Words mean more than what is set down on paper. It takes the human voice to infuse them with the shades of deeper meaning.’
A: “I memorized the part about the human voice infusing words. It seemed so valid and poetic.”

I do declare Ms. Angelou’s famous “And Still I Rise” is best appreciated spoken rather than read. See both words and video here: http://www.upworthy.com/maya-angelou-wrote-this-poem-to-remind-everyone-theyre-w...

I won’t attempt to summarize this book any further except to say I recommend it. It is a powerful piece of writing.

More Quotes:

On a Child’s Perspective – the last sentence completely described my youth:
“Looking through the years, I marvel that Saturday was my favorite day in the week. What pleasures could have been squeezed between the fan folds of unending tasks? Children’s talent to endure stems from their ignorance of alternatives.”

On Prejudice – and the lengthy influence from history:
“The miserable little encounter had nothing to do with me, the me of me, any more than it had to do with that silly clerk. The incident was a recurring dream, connected years before by stupid whites and it eternally came back to haunt us all. The secretary and I were like Hamlet and Laertes in the final scene, where, because of harm done by one ancestor to another, we were bound to duel to the death. Also because the play must end somewhere.
I went further than forgiving the clerk, I accepted her as a fellow victim of the same puppeteer.” ( )
1 vote varwenea | Jun 17, 2014 |
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» Add other authors (16 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Maya Angelouprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Rutten, KathleenTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Information from the Dutch Common Knowledge. Edit to localize it to the English one.
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People/Characters
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Epigraph
Dedication
This book is dedicated to my son
Guy Johnson,
and all the strong black birds of promise who defy the odds and gods and sing their songs
First words
What you looking at me for?
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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Information from the Dutch Common Knowledge. Edit to localize it to the English one.
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Book description
James Baldwin Writes:

This testimony from a Black sister marks the beginning of a new era in the minds and hearts and lives of all Black men and women...
I KNOW WHY THE CAGED BIRD SINGS liberates the reader into life simply because Maya Angelou confronts her own life with such a moving wonder, such a luminous dignity. I have no words for this achievement, but I know that not since the days of my childhood, when the people in books were more real than the people one saw every day, have I found myself so moved ...
her portrait is a Biblical study of life in the midst of death."

The Moving and Beautiful autobiography of a talented black woman. She continues her story in gather together in GATHER TOGETHER IN MY NAME, SINGIN' AND SWINGIN' AND GETTIN' MERRY LIKE CHRISTMAS and THE HEART OF A WOMAN.
Haiku summary

Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0553279378, Mass Market Paperback)

In this first of five volumes of autobiography, poet Maya Angelou recounts a youth filled with disappointment, frustration, tragedy, and finally hard-won independence. Sent at a young age to live with her grandmother in Arkansas, Angelou learned a great deal from this exceptional woman and the tightly knit black community there. These very lessons carried her throughout the hardships she endured later in life, including a tragic occurrence while visiting her mother in St. Louis and her formative years spent in California--where an unwanted pregnancy changed her life forever. Marvelously told, with Angelou's "gift for language and observation," this "remarkable autobiography by an equally remarkable black woman from Arkansas captures, indelibly, a world of which most Americans are shamefully ignorant."

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 14:01:36 -0400)

(see all 8 descriptions)

Presents the story of a spirited and gifted, but poor, black girl growing up in the South in the 1930's. Tells how she came into her own, experiencing prejudice, family difficulties, and a relationship with a teacher who taught her to respect books, learning, and herself. The moving and beautiful autobiography of a talented black woman. "I have no words for this achievement, but I know that not since the days of my childhood have I found myself so moved. Her portrait is a Biblical study of life in the midst of death".-James Baldwin.… (more)

» see all 9 descriptions

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